What Happens If You Don’t Pay Child Support in Texas?

Gavel on top of money used for child support in Texas

I want to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your case.

  • Contact me today for a FREE case strategy meeting.
  • Available in-person, by phone, or by video.
Brett Pritchard Law

The State of Texas requires both parents to support their children financially, and when the parents are no longer together, the state turns to child support to help ensure this happens.

Child support is intended to support the best interests of the involved children, and the parent who is ordered to make the child support payments – the obligor – is required by law to fulfill this financial responsibility. Texas courts take failure to pay child support very seriously, and consequences can include contempt of court charges.

If you have questions or concerns about child support payments, don’t wait to consult with an experienced Austin child support lawyer.

How Child Support Works in Texas

Child support must be established through the court. When a couple who shares children divorces, they must come to a decision on child support that is then approved by the court, or they must ask the court to hand down orders for them.

If the parents aren’t married at the time of a child’s birth, paternity must be established before child support can be ordered. When both parents are in agreement on the matter of paternity, they can resolve the issue by filing an acknowledgement of paternity with the court. When there is disagreement on the matter, DNA testing is generally required.

The Court Order

The child support order determines the amount the obligor must pay the other parent each month for child support and medical and dental support.

How to Calculate Child Support in Texas

The child support calculator in Texas includes the following basics:

  • Obligors pay 20 percent of their net income in child support for 1 child.

  • Obligors pay 25 percent of their net income in child support for 2 children.

  • Obligors pay 30 percent of their net income in child support for 3 children.

  • Obligors pay 35 percent of their net income in child support for 4 children.

  • Obligors pay 40 percent of their net income in child support for 5 children.

  • Obligors pay at least 40 percent of their net income for any number of children above 5.

Factors that Can Affect Child Support

In some instances, the court will deviate from the rigid calculation guidelines. In these cases, factors like the following tend to play a role:

  • Each child’s age and needs, including any special needs

  • Each parent’s financial ability to support the children financially

  • The total financial resources available for supporting the children

  • The amount of time the obligor has with the children

  • The total childcare costs

  • The amount of alimony either parent pays or receives

  • Any non-cash compensation either parent receives

  • The matter of who covers health insurance and the matter of uninsured medical expenses

  • The cost of travel in relation to parenting time

  • Any other factor that supports the children’s best interests and warrants deviation

How Child Support Is Enforced

Child support payments are addressed by the Child Support Division, which is responsible for both the collection and disbursement of the payments. When the obligor fails to pay child support to the other parent – the obligee – the matter can be addressed by the court.

The State of Texas takes the matter of child support exceptionally seriously. Consequences for nonpayment of child support can include contempt charges and the possibility of incarceration.

When a Parent Doesn’t Pay Court-Ordered Child Support

There are several important points to keep in mind when it comes to parents who fail or refuse to pay child support. If you find yourself in this situation, contact an Austin child support attorney right away to protect your rights.

It’s against the Law Not to Pay Child Support

Texas Penal Code relays that “an individual commits an offense if the individual intentionally or knowingly fails to provide support for the individual’s child younger than 18 years of age, or for the individual’s child who is the subject of a court order requiring the individual to support the child.”

If the charge is contempt of court, a conviction can carry up to six months in jail. However, if the charge rises to the level of criminal nonsupport, it’s a state jail felony, and a conviction means a jail sentence of 6 to 24 months.

Wages Can Be Garnished

When a parent is required to pay child support but fails to do so, his or her wages can be garnished. In this situation, the state will put an income withholding order (IWO) on the obligor’s paycheck. The order goes directly to the employer, and the employer is required to adjust pay accordingly. This arrangement helps reduce cases of nonpayment significantly.

Licenses Can Be Revoked

The State of Texas can revoke any license that any of its agencies issue in response to nonpayment of child support. This can include the obligor’s driver’s license, business license, hunting license, and concealed carry license.

Tax Refunds Can Be Intercepted

When a parent doesn’t fulfill a child support obligation, Texas can intercept payments from both state and federal sources, including tax refunds. Lottery winnings can be similarly diverted.

Credit Scores Can Be Affected

Texas alerts credit bureaus in relation to child support delinquencies, which can negatively affect the credit ratings of delinquent parents.

Liens Can Be Placed

Until the child support obligation has been paid, a lien can be placed on property that belongs to the obligor, which can include any of the following types of assets:

  • Bank accounts

  • Property

  • Vehicles

  • Retirement accounts

It’s important to note that a parent who owes more than $2,500 in child support can’t obtain a passport in the United States. Further, the State of Texas maintains an evader website that lists the names of parents who are seriously delinquent, the amount they owe, and the number of children they are required to support.

Unpaid Child Support Doesn’t Disappear

Many obligors believe that the amount they are behind on child support will simply disappear when the children being supported turn 18, but this isn’t how it works. The State of Texas can pursue unpaid child support until the matter is resolved.

Parents behind on child support payments would also be wise to remember that Texas charges interest on late payments, so the amount owed continues to increase with time.

Child Support and Personal Injury Settlements

Being behind on child support can also affect legal settlements, such as personal injury settlements. Many parents wonder how much child support can be taken from their settlements in Texas, but the answer is different for every case.

When calculating child support payments, Texas courts generally consider every form of income the obligor parent receives a source of income. Whether or not a legal settlement is included as a source of income may be influenced by parents’ record of making child support payments.

When a parent is up to date with payments and has established a history of making child support payments on time, a legal settlement is unlikely to affect the amount owed. However, the court may include a legal settlement as a source of income for a parent who is behind on child support payments. This action is intended to motivate parents to resolve the issue.

In the end, the matter of legal settlements is considered on a case-by-case basis, and the unique factors involved guide how each case is resolved. Discuss your case with an Austin child support attorney to learn more.

Visitation Can’t Be Withheld in Response to Late Child Support

The State of Texas is motivated by children’s best interests when determining both child support and parenting time. However, the two terms are in no way interchangeable.

Parents are required to support their children financially, but the state also finds that children benefit from maintaining close relationships with each parent. As such, the primary custodial parent can’t withhold visitation from the other parent in response to unpaid child support.

If you are the primary custodial parent and your ex isn’t paying child support according to court orders, it’s important to remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. Instead of withholding visitation, reach out for the skilled legal guidance of a dedicated child support lawyer in Austin, TX.

Does Child Support Increase If Salary Increases in Texas?

Child support is calculated in accordance with the obligor’s salary, which means that a significant increase or decrease in salary can affect the amount of child support owed. Texas courts perform an automatic review of child support payments every three years during the child support review process. The court will make child support adjustments as needed at this time.

If three years have not passed since your divorce or your last review, but there is a change in circumstance that is “material and substantial,” either parent can request a child support modification. The moving parent is called upon to prove that the change is significant enough to warrant a modification, and a common motivation is an increase in the obligor’s income.

Texas Child Support Calculator: 50/50 Custody

Generally, the parent who isn’t in the primary custodial role makes child custody payments to the primary custodial parent. When parents share 50/50 custody, the higher earner generally has the child custody obligation, but the equal parenting time can affect the calculation process. In such cases, courts may turn to the following options to calculate child support:

  • When parents split parenting time evenly down the middle and have similar incomes, child support may not be ordered at all, but the matter of medical and dental coverage must be addressed.

  • Both parents can be required to split additional expenses, such as the cost of school, daycare, extracurriculars, and travel, evenly between themselves.

  • Courts can determine how much each parent would owe if he or she was not granted the primary custodial role and require the parent who would owe more to pay the difference to the parent who would owe less.


Child support is a primary concern if you and your children’s other parent are no longer together, and the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic can help.

What Can I Do If My Ex Isn’t Paying Child Support?

When a Texas court orders child support, the obligor is required to make timely payments, and failing to do so can lead to serious legal consequences. If your ex is behind on child support payments or is refusing to pay altogether, you shouldn’t wait to discuss the matter with a trusted Austin child support lawyer.

Can I Halt Visitation until My Ex Pays Child Support?

You can’t limit your ex’s parenting time in response to late child support. The state supports what’s best for your children, and that includes being financially supported by both parents and spending time with both parents. If you aren’t receiving the child support you’re owed, reach out for professional legal representation.

What Can the Court Do to Make My Ex Pay Child Support?

Texas courts can take a range of actions in response to parents who refuse to pay court-ordered child support:

Your ex’s credit score can also be affected. Further, if he or she is seriously behind and refuses to effectively address the matter, your ex can face jail time. If you’re waiting on child support, turn to a reputable Austin child support law firm.

Can My Ex’s Raise Affect the Amount of Child Support I Receive?

If your ex receives a substantial raise that translates to a significant change according to the child support calculation guidelines, it can affect the amount of child support you receive. Unless it’s time for an automatic child support review, however, you’ll need to file for a modification and prove to the court that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances.

Consult with an Experienced Austin Child Support Attorney Today

Child support plays an important role in your children’s upbringing, and if your ex isn’t keeping up with court-ordered payments, you shouldn’t ignore the issue.

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a practiced Austin child support lawyer who is committed to fiercely advocating for the child support you’re owed. We appreciate that your primary concern is continuing to support your children, and our focused legal team is standing by to help.

Your case is important, so please don’t wait to reach out and contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation and learn more about what we can do to help you today.

Related Reading